Sleep apnea is a disorder that prevents the body from getting a sufficient amount of oxygen during sleep. During sleep, the person stops breathing for small periods of time, creating an extremely dangerous situation. Over 12 million men, women and children in America have been diagnosed with one of the three types of sleep apnea.
Types of sleep apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea. Throat blockage, mostly from the tongue or palate, is what gives obstructive sleep apnea its name. It is caused by a breathing obstruction, which stops the air flow in the nose and mouth.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Central sleep apnea is a far rarer type of sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain signal that instructs the body to breathe is delayed. This central nervous system disorder can be caused by disease or injury involving the brainstem, such as a stroke, a brain tumor, a viral brain infection, or a chronic respiratory disease. People with CSA seldom snore, which makes it even harder to diagnose as they do not fit the “normal” profile of a sleep apnea sufferer. However, while the causes of the breathing cessation are different in CSA and OSA, the symptoms and results are much the same, a deprivation of oxygen and poor sleep due to repeated awakenings at night. The treatments for CSA include specific medications that stimulate the need to breathe and administration of oxygen.
Mixed sleep apnea
Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the two other types of sleep apnea, Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea. A person with mixed sleep apnea will often snore, but finds that treatments which only help obstructions in the airways do not completely stop apnea episodes.
Treatment for OSA and CSA
In all three types, people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing or breath insufficiently to keep their blood oxygen saturation up. This can occur hundreds of time an hour. Each time it occurs, the brain arouses the individual to resume “normal” breathing. This results in interrupted and poor quality sleep.
Treatment for sleep apnea includes:
Continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) – This machine works to supply the body (lungs and brain) with enough oxygen while the patient is sleeping. Some machines use nasal masks that cover the mouth and nose to send air, while others use a tube-connected mouth or nose piece to deliver air. The idea with either method is to keep the airway open so that a patient gets sufficient air through regular breathing.
Tongue retaining appliances – These prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues – thus keeping the airways open.
Mandibular repositioning appliances – These support the jaw in a position that helps maintain open airways.
Sleep Apnea is very common. One out of four adults has sleep apnea and the odds get higher as you get older. Forty percent of snorers have sleep apnea. Risk factors include males, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.